Humour, when executed correctly, can make even the most painful situation funny and, ultimately, cathartic.
Case in point, the moment when Edmonton-based stand-up comic Lars Callieou received a phone call that a co-worker and close friend, Ellen Van Beek, had died from breast cancer.
One of Van Beek’s daughters made the call. Callieou is close with the deceased’s two daughters, having emceed both of their weddings. They understood his brand of humour very well, he said.
“I’m really sorry to hear that,” he told the daughter. “Did anyone get her potato salad recipe?"
To be clear, everyone who knew Van Beek believed she made the best potato salad, he said. And the daughter laughed so hard and enjoyed the joke so much, she asked Callieou to say it at her mother’s funeral.
“I couldn’t bring myself to say it,” said Callieou, adding he feared everyone wouldn’t appreciate the humour. “I didn’t want to seem like I was just trying to get a laugh at a funeral.”
But Callieou hopes he and nine other comedians will get plenty of laughs when The Boob Tour returns to the Kamloops Convention Centre on May 26.
Joining him on stage are Allison Lane, Susan Rice, Ron Josol and the philanthropic comedian behind The Boob Tour, James Uloth.
Many are regulars on the Canadian comedy circuit, CBC’s Just For Laughs or the Halifax Comedy Festival, explains Uloth. Some, like Lane, have survived battles with breast cancer or know someone who has.
Although some of the comedians do share personal anecdotes, Uloth maintains the point of the performance isn’t to depress or preach, but to make people laugh.
“In my personal experience, pain is where I find most of my comedy,” he said. “It’s a coping mechanism.”
Uloth created The Boob Tour two years ago and has raised $300,000 for local cancer charities. He lost a friend’s mom to breast cancer while in high school and wanted to do something to save women’s lives.
He started by handing out buttons reading I Love Boobs after his stand-up shows, which didn’t amount to much.
“It raised maybe a couple of hundred dollars,” said Uloth.
By then, he was producing comedy shows and decided to put that talent to good use. So he put a plan together, recruited some funny people, and took The Boob Tour on the road.
“We’ve turned a couple of hundred bucks into almost 300,000,” he said, adding The Boob Tour has become more successful than he’d ever hoped.
“It’s pretty hard, when you look at statistics, to not find someone who hasn’t been affected by cancer. I think everyone wants to contribute somehow or be a part of something that will progress people’s treatment or research. And coming to a comedy show is a great outlet.”
Uloth likes to keep the money each show raises in the communities where he performs. Last year, The Boob Tour donated all proceeds to the Look Good Feel Good program the ladies auxiliary runs at Royal Inland Hospital.
The Boob Tour is a straight stand-up comedy show, with each comedian getting his or her time in the spotlight. Callieou tries to keep his routine clever and clean as he pokes fun at growing up in the 1980s.
“I have a joke where I talk about how my brother and I loved to play Operation, so we’d up the stakes and play in the bathtub,” he said.
Callieou said the Kamloops audience can expect a good show, one with lots of laughs, as Uloth only recruits the best comedians.
“The most important thing is you have to be funny,” he said.
WHAT: The Boob Tour
WHEN: Saturday, May 26, 8 p.m.
WHERE: Kamloops Convention Centre
TICKETS: available at Ora Restaurant, by phone at 250-372-5312 or at Genesis Fashion and Beauty